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Dundalk – Ireland in the Champions League

To say that this week, I am going to be jealous of all the Dundalk fans, is an understatement.

It’s not something that I typically would admit to, but having the opportunity to hear the most famous music in world football at your home ground is the stuff of dreams.

I had the opportunity in 2013 to hear Zadok the Priest at the Showgrounds, and to say it was not a spine tingling experience would be a lie. It was a powerful 90 minutes to be a Sligo Rovers fan, even if the result did not go our way that night. It’s still a night I will never forget.

Oriel Park will no doubt be full to capacity tonight as Dundalk FC take on Icelantic Champions FH Hafnarfjordur in the UEFA Champions League second-qualifying round first leg.

This season marks Dundalk’s second successive season in the Champions League. Last season, they were beaten 2-1 on aggregate by Belarusian Champions BATE Borisov.

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Many neutral fans, myself included, felt that Dundalk were unlucky last season to go out of the competition when they did and their manager, Steven Kenny, will be hoping that last season’s experience will prove pivotal in his side going through to the next round of the 2016/2017 competition.

Irish teams do not have a great record when it comes to participating in European competitions at club level, surprisingly enough.

The only noticeable success over the last 10 years or so came from Dublin side Shamrock Rovers in 2012, when they got through to the group stages of the Europa League after beating Serbian side FK Partizan on away goals.

In the group stages, The Hoops were paired with Tottenham Hotspur, PAOK and Russian side Rubin Kazan.

While they did not manage to pick up any points in the group stage, losing to all three teams, having an Irish team in the group stage of such a major European club competition was deemed a success for the League Of Ireland.

Unfortunately, since then no Irish team have made it that far. If they get a decent result in the 2 legs of the second round, and an easy draw in the next round, Dundalk could better Shamrock Rovers and maybe get in to the group stage of the Champions League or the Europa League.

Who knows – maybe they could win a game or two!

The only drawback for League of Ireland fans (and you all know how much I love a good moan) is that it seems none of the national TV channels will be showing the games live.

This is yet another deficiency shown towards the league – it gets no support from television. In fact, games were being streamed live by a UK firm, but unfortunately you couldn’t watch them if you were in Ireland.

The internet connection was brutal, large portions of the games were missed by ex-pats, and to even watch a game you had to place a bet on a betting site.

While, as a fan, I applaud the fact someone outside the league has an interest in it, the extra terms and conditions that came with having to watch the games were appalling. Imagine in 2016, being somewhere in a large populated area and not having a proper internet connection.

Hopefully next season the Internet problem will be solved and I’ll be writing about an Irish team that played group stage football in the Champions League and performed well – the stuff of dreams.

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